If you’ve suddenly found yourself thrown into the role of caregiver in your family, you might be feeling overwhelmed. There’s no doubt that you have a lot to do in your day-to-day life and if you’ve just had the responsibility of caring for an elderly family member, your world might be turning upside down. Or, perhaps you have been caring for an aging family member for some time and have started to notice that the tasks are consuming your life. Whether you are just starting out as a caregiver, or you have been doing it for many years, there are lots of things you can do to pace yourself so that you can enjoy your own life, and help make the last few years of a senior’s life meaningful, as well. Here are a few ideas to help you pace yourself as a first-time or long-time caregiver.
Always Eat Your Breakfast First
While you might be tempted to start your day ensuring that the senior in your life is dressed and fed first, you need to ensure that you are keeping up your morning routine by getting yourself ready and getting yourself a healthy, balanced breakfast first. Once the caregiving portion of your day starts, it can quickly be hijacked by responsibility and unforeseen circumstances, such as a cold or flu or a forgotten doctor’s appointment. Before you know it, it’ll be noon and you won’t have eaten a bite all morning. So be sure to take the time to care for yourself first thing in the morning and stick to it. It might mean getting up a few minutes early to enjoy a wholesome meal, but make the time to do it each day.
It’s not uncommon for many seniors to drift into a nap in the early afternoon, particularly after lunch or a heavy meal. Isn’t that true of all of us, though? So if you find that the senior you are taking care of has a tendency to take a nap after lunch, or even mid-afternoon, make the most of that time and do something for yourself to bring you back to your world. If you have kids at home, this might be the time of day when you go to school to pick them up. It’s not a lot of time, but getting to see them on a regular basis will help you maintain a sense of routine in your life. Or, perhaps you’ll enjoy your lunch during afternoon nap time so that you can catch up on your favorite television shows and enjoy a meal in the quiet of the afternoon. Whatever it is that you choose to do with that time, be sure to take or make breaks for yourself throughout the afternoon.
One of the best things you can do for yourself to pace yourself throughout the day is arrange for another family member or caregiver to come during or after the evening meal times. This will allow you to go home to your family and spend some quality time with them. If your senior family member is actually residing with you, then it still important to arrange for additional caregiving after the evening meal so that you can tend to your needs. Perhaps you need to run errands for your family, or you need to attend a special dinner for a friend. Many caregivers get caught up in the 24/7 environment of caregiving because they feel like they need to do everything themselves. It’s so important to take care of yourself as a caregiver and try to retain some sense of routine in your own life, while caring for someone else.
So whether you have just started your journey as a caregiver, or you have been in the “business” for many years, there’s no need to let yourself and your self-care fall to the wayside. Paying attention to what you need, following a calendar so that you know what and when you need to do things for yourself and your family, and ensuring you take regular breaks are all important things to consider as you continue on your journey as a caregiver. Be sure to check in with yourself once in a while to make sure the routines you have created are still working for you and don’t be afraid to adjust them to meet your new needs. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for the help you may need from time to time. You can’t do it all and it’s important to recognize that you shouldn’t have to! Be sure to enlist the help of other family members and take the time away that you need.
Kristen Heller: Kristen is a passionate writer, teacher, and mother to a wonderful son. When free time presents itself you can find her tackling her lifelong goal of learning the piano!
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